Press release

New award celebrates medicine in literature

What do Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s ‘Love in the Time of Cholera’, Jean-Dominique Bauby’s ‘The Diving Bell and the Butterfly’ and Ian McEwan’s ‘Saturday’ have in common? All three acclaimed works would have met the criteria for a major new book prize launching today.

The Wellcome Trust Book Prize is open to outstanding works of fiction and non-fiction on the theme of health, illness or medicine. The £25,000 annual award, created by the Wellcome Trust, is the first of its kind to bring together the traditionally diverse fields of medicine and literature.

Comedian and former psychiatric nurse Jo Brand will act as Chair of the 2009 judging panel, which includes BBC science journalist Quentin Cooper, Welsh poet and non-fiction writer Gwyneth Lewis, physician and author Raymond Tallis and Professor of Medicine in the Arts Brian Hurwitz.

Jo Brand says: “Good and bad health are pretty fundamental to all our lives, so it's no surprise these themes crop up fairly often in literature too. The Wellcome Trust Book Prize recognises writers who have incorporated medicine in such a way as to really engage readers with the subject, exploring our understanding of what it means to be healthy or sick. I'm sure there are going to be plenty of wonderful books for me and the other judges to read. I just hope we can reach a final decision without too much damage to our own health."

  • The prize will be open to books published in the UK and works published in English translation.
  • A short list of six works will be announced at The Times Cheltenham Literature Festival in October 2009.
  • The winner will be announced at a prestigious ceremony in November 2009 at Wellcome Collection in London - the Wellcome Trust’s renowned cultural venue for medicine, life and art.

Clare Matterson, Director of Medicine, Society and History at the Wellcome Trust, comments: "There's always been a thirst for books that combine excellent writing with accurate and compelling medical stories. We hope this prize will stimulate even more interest, excitement and debate about medicine and literature. Our award reflects the Wellcome Trust's aim to broaden the appeal of medicine and reach new audiences - from literature lovers to science enthusiasts alike."

To find out more, visit the Wellcome Trust Book Prize website.